What Is the Law on Open Containers in Texas?

What Is the Law on Open Containers in Texas?

September 25, 2020

With many bars and breweries closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, you might want to enjoy the last of the warm weather outdoors with some beer, wine and your friends. If you drive home with an open bottle of wine, however, you could be charged with a misdemeanor. Open containers—that is, any unsealed container with alcohol inside—are strictly forbidden on public highways. Drinking and driving is a serious offense that could result in a conviction, so the open container law in Texas is meant to discourage people from having any access to alcohol while they’re operating a motor vehicle.

Texas open container law

Section 49.031(b) of the Texas Penal Code states:

“A person commits an offense if the person knowingly possesses an open container in a passenger area of a motor vehicle that is located on a public highway, regardless of whether the vehicle is being operated or is stopped or parked. Possession by a person of one or more open containers in a single criminal episode is a single offense.”

The statute also defines the terms “public highway” and “open container,” so there can be no mistaking their meaning. “Open container” refers to any kind of container that has alcohol, whether it’s a water bottle, a soda fountain cup or a flask. It doesn’t matter if the driver is drinking it or can even reach it—the alcohol must be locked in the trunk. Otherwise, it’s considered “in a passenger area” and the driver will be charged with a violation of the Texas open container law.

As a result, this means that passengers can’t hold on to open containers, either. Even if they’re in the backseat, passengers can’t drink while they’re in the motor vehicle. If you don’t have a trunk, like in Jeeps, you can put the open container behind the farthest back rear upright seat.

You should also note that it doesn’t matter whether the vehicle is in motion, either—the statute provides that these rules apply whether you’re driving, stopped or parked on a public highway. As much as traffic might make us all long for a cocktail, it’s not worth the risk.

Exceptions to the open container law

There are also limited exceptions to this law. For example, you can have open containers of alcohol in the living quarters of your motorhome or RV, even though that’s technically a “passenger area” of the vehicle. The same goes for buses, taxis and limos—go ahead, enjoy some champagne on the way to the wedding, or margaritas on the party bus.

Consequences of violation

If you’re caught with an open container in the passenger area of the car, you can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. This comes for a $500 fee—and a misdemeanor conviction will harm your chances of getting into schools, jobs and more.

If you’ve been charged with an open container violation in Texas, call the Law Office of Rob Biggers today. We look forward to discussing the particulars of your case and are committed to fighting on your behalf.

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